Fall brunch has us turning on the oven for baked chilaquiles and the perfect apple cake
All the bins of apples at the local farmers market make my heart beat faster. How much to buy? Which varieties are my favorites? Do I take a chance on a new apple? How many can I eat on the 1-mile drive home?
September tomatoes likewise cause an internal frenzy. Soon, all those luscious vine-ripened red beauties will disappear until next year. Supermarket tomatoes are just not the same, so I try to eat my fill. That includes tucking them into every meal, including weekend brunch.
This fall, baked chilaquiles is featured on our Sunday brunch menu. At its simplest, chilaquiles combines hearty tortilla chips with a red or green sauce for a starchy combo that welcomes additions such as fried eggs, chicken shreds, cilantro, cheese.
When the tomatoes are plentiful, I make a sauce of fresh tomatoes, canned ground tomatoes and a little chipotle chile. Ground turkey and a packet of taco seasoning add lean protein and zesty flavor. The meaty sauce mixture can be made a day or two in advance and reheated while the oven heats. Likewise, I bake my tortilla chips a day in advance to make the morning prep speedy. Of course, when I have thick, restaurant-style corn tortilla chips available, I use those instead of baking my own; the dish will be a bit richer.
For baked chilaquiles, I crack eggs right into the sauced chips before popping the dish into a hot oven. Serve the baked chilaquiles as soon as the eggs are set so the yolks stay runny and the tortilla chips maintain some texture and crispness. Garnish as you like, but be sure to pass something tangy to cut the richness such as plain yogurt, hot sauce and/or fresh lime wedges. I serve a romaine and arugula salad, dressed with fresh lime and olive oil, and topped with sliced tomatoes alongside the casserole.
The apple sheet cake recipe that follows is based on an old family favorite baked in a Bundt pan. These days, I prefer to use my 13-by-9-inch baking pan with a reduced amount of sugar in the batter. I change up the apples depending on availability. Lately, the SweeTango captures my fancy, but the more readily available Gala and Honeycrisp taste awesome, too.
This tender cake is dairy and nut free. When I’m baking for gluten-sensitive friends, I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour in place of the all-purpose flour. You may need to increase the baking time by 4 or 5 minutes.
The cake is best served warm, with hot coffee or cold milk for breakfast or brunch — or with vanilla ice cream after dinner. Make two cakes when the apples are aplenty and deliver large squares to the neighbors or coworkers to celebrate the bounty of fall goodness.
TOMATO AND TURKEY CHILAQUILES BRUNCH CASSEROLE
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
To save time, skip step 1 and 2 and substitute a 9-ounce bag of thick, restaurant-style or homestyle yellow corn tortilla chips. Don’t use store-bought baked tortilla chips or super thin tortilla chips here because the casserole will be mushy. I like to use 6-in-1 Brand All-Purpose Ground Tomatoes here because they are free of citric acid and preservatives — like fresh tomatoes.
12 thick, yellow corn tortillas (one 10-ounce package)
3 tablespoons expeller-pressed canola oil or safflower oil
1 pound ground turkey
1 medium red onion, diced
1 packet (1 to 1.3 ounces) taco seasoning mix (or 2 tablespoons chili powder mixed with 2 teaspoons smoked paprika and 1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder and salt)
Half of a 28-ounce can of ground tomatoes, about 1 1/2 cups
1 pound very ripe red tomatoes, cored, diced
1 cup diced roasted red pepper (from a bottle is fine)
1 teaspoon pureed chipotle in adobo (from a can or jar), optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded Chihuahua or Monterey Jack cheese
1 small avocado, halved, pitted, diced
1/2 cup crumbled mild feta cheese
1/4 cup sliced cilantro leaves
Plain nonfat yogurt, hot sauce, lime wedges
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Have 2 baking sheets ready. Cut tortillas in half, then cut each half into 3 wedges. Put wedges onto one of the baking sheets. Add 2 tablespoons oil and use clean hands to toss tortilla wedges, coating them with oil. Arrange the wedges in a single layer over the two baking sheets.
2. Bake tortilla wedges, stirring often, until crisp and a little bit browned at the edges, about 20 minutes. Cool completely. (Cover with foil and use within 1 day.)
3. Heat a deep, 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat until hot. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add turkey and onion. Cook and stir until turkey is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning (or the substitute); cook, 2 minutes. Stir in ground tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, roasted red pepper, chipotle and salt. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. (Refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days.)
4. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Reheat the tomato-turkey mixture if necessary. Gently stir in the tortilla chips until all of them are coated with the sauce. Spread the chips in an even layer over the pan but don’t crush them too much. Use a large spoon to make 6 shallow indentations in the chip mixture; crack an egg into each indentation. Sprinkle everything with shredded cheese. Bake until egg yolks are soft set and whites are completely set, 13 to 15 minutes.
5. Remove from oven; garnish with avocado, feta and cilantro. Serve right away with dollops of yogurt, a splash of hot sauce and a squeeze of lime.
Nutrition information per serving (for 6 servings): 436 calories, 22 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 252 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrates, 8 g sugar, 26 g protein, 1,066 mg sodium, 5 g fiber
CINNAMON APPLE SHEET CAKE
Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 50 minutes
Makes: 18 pieces
The firmer and fresher the apple, the better the cake. Ground cinnamon, like most ground spices, loses flavor with age. Start your fall baking season with a fresh jar.
Vegetable shortening for greasing the pan
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, see note
3 large (or 6 or 7 small) Gala, Honeycrisp or SweeTango apples, about 1 1/2 pounds total
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup expeller-pressed canola oil or safflower oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Use vegetable shortening to heavily grease the interior of a 13-by-9-inch metal baking pan. Add 2 tablespoons flour to the pan. Working over the sink, shake the pan to coat it on all sides with flour. Shake out any excess flour.
2. Peel, core and quarter apples. Slice the apples into 1/4-inch thick wedges. (If your apples are large, cut the wedges in half.) Put apples into a medium bowl. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon; mix well.
3. Mix remaining 3 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk eggs together in a small bowl. Make a well in center of flour; pour in oil, orange juice and vanilla. Pour in beaten eggs. Use a large rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture just until all the flour is moistened.
4. Spread about two-thirds of the batter over the bottom of the prepared pan. Gently arrange apple mixture over the batter, being careful not to let apples touch the sides of the pan. Use the spatula to dollop the remaining batter evenly over apples (they won’t be completely covered).
5. Bake until top is nicely browned and wooden pick inserted in a batter area comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack.
6. Stir a couple of teaspoons of water into the powdered sugar in a small bowl to make a smooth, thickish glaze. Use a large fork to drizzle the glaze over the warm cake. Serve cake while it’s still warm.
Note: For a gluten-free version of the cake, JeanMarie suggests using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour in place of the all-purpose flour. We tested the cake this way in Tribune’s test kitchen, and tasters loved the result.
Nutrition information per serving: 319 calories, 14 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 41 mg cholesterol, 46 g carbohydrates, 28 g sugar, 4 g protein, 150 mg sodium, 1 g fiber